In December of 1984, Mets general manager Frank Cashen made one of the most significant trades in club history. He sent promising third baseman Hubie Brooks to the Montreal Expos for perennial all star catcher Gary Carter. The trade changed the Mets from a young team on the rise to an overnight powerhouse with expectations of winning a division title. It would take another season but the 1985 Mets were significantly better than the 1984 team that contended most of the season but lost the division to the Chicago Cubs by six games.
Gary Carter, a first ballot entrant into the Hall of Fame was one of the greatest Mets to ever put on the blue and orange uniform. His tenure with the Amazin’s was short, just five seasons, but the mark he left on the team will live forever in Mets history. On Thursday of last week, Gary died at age 57 from brain cancer which was diagnosed just 9 months earlier.
Below I have listed my top ten memorable moments of Gary Carter. Yours may be different but certainly many will overlap. I have placed the memories in chronological order but certainly the most memorable of the memorable occurred in 1986.
Number 1 – April 9, 1985 – Gary Carter’s very first game in a Mets uniform. So excited was I for the ’85 season to begin, me and a few friends purchased tickets for opening day. The two most significant things I remember was how cold it was that day as I sat in the mezzanine on the first base side and when Gary ended game number 1 with a walk off 10th inning home run into the left field bullpen. Former Met Neil Allen gave up the blast. Carter unlike so many players over the years who have come to New York and struggled initially started out with a flourish.
Number 2 – September 3, 1985 – Carter belts three home runs in San Diego driving in 6 runs. The Mets win the game 8-3 as Carter becomes the fifth Mets player in history to perform the feat. No Met has ever hit four homers in a game and no Met has hit three at home. After that win, the Mets were just a game behind St. Louis for the division lead.
Number 3 – April 11, 1986 – The Mets win their second of 108 wins as Carter drives in 5 runs in Philadelphia. In the game, Gary hit his first of 24 homers for the season.
Number 4 – April 25, 1986 – Carter goes 2 for 2 with 3 walks as the Mets destroy the St. Louis Cardinals 9-0. It was the second consecutive win over the Cardinals en route to a four game sweep in St. Louis. This series made a huge statement as to who the dominant power was to be in the National League East for 1986.
Number 5 – July 11, 1986 – Carter becomes the fourth Met to drive in 7 or more runs in a game. He hit a three run homer in the first and a grand slam in the second as the Mets defeated the Braves by a score of 11-0. Only Dave Kingman had driven in more (8) prior to this game. Since then, Carlos Delgado set the all time Mets mark with 9 driven in against the Yankees in 2008.
Number 6 – October 14, 1986 – With game 5 of the NLCS tied at one against Houston at Shea in the bottom of the 12th, Wally Backman was on second base and Keith Hernandez was on first. Gary Carter singled up the middle against Houston pitcher Charlie Kerfeld. Backman scored from second as the Mets defeated the Astros by a score of 2-1. As a result of Carter’s clutch single, the Mets took a 3 games to 2 series lead.
Number 7 – October 22, 1986 – The Mets trailed the Red Sox 2 games to 1 in the World Series. Game 4 was crucial for the Mets. When the chips were down, Gary Carter always seemed to shine. On this Wednesday night, he did just that as he belted two home runs over Fenway’s Green Monster to give the Mets a 6-2 victory and tie the series at two games each.
Number 8 – October 26, 1986 – Down to their last out and a Series loss, Gary Carter refused to make the last out of the World Series. The catcher lined a single to left that began the most improbably comeback in baseball history. Kevin Mitchell and Ray Knight followed with base hits scoring Carter to make it a one run game. Bob Stanley’s wild pitch and Bill Buckner’s error completed the comeback as the Mets took game 6 sending the ’86 series to a decisive game 7.
Number 9 – August 11, 1988 – Gary struggled at the plate in 1988. It had been almost two months since Gary hit his 299th career home run. On this date, at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, Carter finally hit number 300. The Mets won the game by a score of 9-6 scoring 5 runs in the ninth inning. Carter’s homer, his 9th of the season was a solo shot to left field.
Number 10 – August 29, 1988 – Gary was also a great defensive catcher who helped young Mets pitchers develop into an awesome staff. Likely, Dwight Gooden does not have the Cy Young year in 1985 without Gary Carter to pitch to. No Met pitcher has ever thrown a no-hitter. David Cone came awfully close allowing just one hit and striking out 8 in a complete game shutout as Gary called a brilliant game from behind the plate.
Of course there were many other great moments involving Gary Carter. The Mets were a very good team in 1984. They became an exceptional club when Gary joined them for 1985. In the 50 year history of the New York Mets, there was no more dominant a club than the teams fielded from 1984 through 1988. With two playoff appearances and a World Series title, it is safe to say that Gary Carter played a huge part in most of those seasons.
Gary’s last game as a Met was on September 30, 1989. He went 0-5 in Pittsburgh as a disappointing Mets season drew to a close. Carter entered the Hall of Fame as a Montreal Expo. He played 11 seasons there and was an All Star almost in every one of them. But his five seasons with the Mets were truly special. He was the final piece of the puzzle that transformed the Mets who were baseball’s laughing stock in 1980 to one of the best teams in baseball history.
Gary Carter’s time on earth was far too short. But the memories he gave Mets fans, Expos fans, Giants fans, and Dodgers fans will live on forever.